Why I Read Digital Comics, Not Physical.

I have seen a lot of people lately around various sites asking about which way they should buy comics, digitally or physical copies. They both have their pros and cons but I’m going to tell you why, despite having over 12 thousand physical comics, I prefer digital.

The number one reason that digital works for me is that as far as I’m concerned, the story is all that matters. I am much more interested in reading than I am in collecting. I have always considered my collection to be a reader’s collection. Many of the covers are ripped (a few even completely torn off) and a number of the issues are about as far from “mint” as you can get. So long as I can read the content though, I don’t get all bent out of shape about it.

I use two services for my digital reading: Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.[1] There are other options out there but these are the two I have settled on.

Comixology is the company that makes digital possible for me. I have tried other services of the same type, and nothing comes close. Without Comixology I never would have taken the digital plunge. Some things that I like about it are:

  • As long as I have an internet connection, I have access to my entire purchase history.
  • Many publishers drop the price of comics after 4 or 8 weeks letting me buy more with the same amount of money.
  • I am able to purchase some of my books for the week as early as 5am. Typically by 10am, all of the books from any publisher are available. This means I can read one or two issues before work, and don’t have to take the time to go to the store after.
  • Comixlogy has frequent sales that I love utilizing.
  • Digital first comics are great and provide new content on days other than Wednesday’s. [2]

To supplement Comixology I use Marvel Unlimited (come on DC, join this party please). With Marvel Unlimited, I have the $70/year basic subscription which gives me full access to their entire catalog. Currently that’s advertised as 17 thousand issues.

  • Currently I read 5 ongoing titles via MU, each costing $3.99/issue. I choose to limit MU to titles that I don’t believe will have an impact on the Marvel Universe as whole. I do this because MU titles are about 6 months behind new releases making it ideal for those stories that are more self-contained.
  • If I read an average of 2 comics per month I have come out ahead based on the $3.99 price point most Marvel books currently are.
  • Up to 12 issues at a time can be downloaded for offline reading, and these can be changed whenever you want.
  • As a reader, the app isn’t as strong as Comixlogy’s, but it’s updated on a regular basis and has seen significant improvements.

Some general things that I like about digital comics regardless of platform:

  • I believe the image quality is higher on my iPad. I love being able to zoom in and out of panels at my discretion.
  • If there is a printing error, you are stuck with it, but digital comics can and do receive updates to fix these errors.
  • During the main issue itself, there are no ads. Any other ads are always house ads which never bother me.
  • When traveling I used to struggle with what comics I should take with me to read on the trip. Now I can take as many as I have free space on my iPad, and more when I have an internet connection.
  • At the rate I was going, I was rapidly running out of storage space for my physical comics. That’s no longer an issue.
  • Not relying on a brick and mortar store has other advantages.
    • I don’t have to worry about issues selling out. If there is a hot new title released, Comixology has it. They aren’t going to run out of copies because I got to the store later than usual.
    • I don’t have to worry about shipping delays due to things like the weather.
    • I don’t have to worry about a box of comics arriving damaged, keeping them from being fit to be sold.

Now, let me be clear, digital comics will never replace two things: The feel of physical comics and the experience of a great comic store with friendly staff and customers. Right away those are deal breakers for many people. And of course, if you’re a collector first and reader second then there is no reason why having digital issues should appeal to you.

I should also mention that I prefer the reading experience digitally over physical so much that I have no interest in rereading my physical collection. Marvel Unlimited solves that issue for Marvel, but there have been a few other titles I have re-bought for the better reading experience. [3] If that happens to much that can certainly wipe out all my savings.

If you’re on the fence about how to buy your books I would recommend you do what I did. Designate a couple titles as digital (best to start with a number 1) and keep getting hard copies for the rest. After 2 or 3 issues you’ll know if you miss having that physical book, or if going to a store has become a chore and you wished they were all digital.

Let me know what you guys think. Why do you like digital? Why do you not? Does anyone do both? Best way to reach me is on twitter.

  1. I don’t currently subscribe to Comixlogy Unlimted. The short version is I don’t think the quantity of content is worth it, yet. You can read my full thoughts here if you would like

  2. I’m aware that digital first titles do eventually come to physical shops. But they are typically cheaper in digital form.

  3. Like more issues of The Walking Dead and Invincible than I would like to admit.